My training for staff at the start of this year focuses on making screencasts. You can see a video summary of the training below. It aims to frame screencasting exemplars as a useful stimulus to stimulating metacognition practice.

Following my study on metacognition, it specifies a tier of metacognitive skill:

  1. Narrative consideration of an issue.
  2. Knowing metacognitive strategies
  3. Developing the sense of when to use such strategies.

Of course, it is that last skill which is the hardest to really understand, let alone create the conditions to teach and learn. When people solve problems, especially academic ones, vocalising a narrative may actually be detrimental to thought. In other words, working might be overwhelming by strategies that involve conscious thought about too many details of an intellectual process.

Still, vocalising a narrative is an important part of the learning process. Below you can see a model casually attributed to Maslow of the need to vocalise a narrative of thought when tackling new and difficult learning.

Related image

As you can see from the final two stages, the ideal situation for any learner and thinker is to be able to use a metacognitive strategy through sensing its usefulness, perhaps at a sub-conscious level (which, of course, raises the question as to whether that is metacognition anymore…).

There are some excellent posts on metacognition from two famous bloggers. The height of my practice at the moment matches what they demonstrate, which is the teaching of the strategies. Tomsett in particular goes a little further by writing metacognitive thought in suitably fragmented and informal sentences below.

This much I know about…The Sutton Trust/EEF Toolkit and the Golden Thread from evidence to student outcomes, via deliberate intervention
Ten teaching techniques to practise – deliberately.

Where I desire to go a little further though is this: I want to engineer situations in which students develop the sensing of the right time to use these strategies.

It is with this in mind that I want to look to implement some strategies used in elite sport, as shared by Paul Barratt and Mike Randall. Essentially in football, conscious thought about when to use certain strategies, such as when and how to press the opponent, needs to become ‘second nature’. To engineer this, the PE staff create scenarios where students need to consider how to approach a particular game moment. This can be as simple as being 2-0 down in a game with 5 minutes to go. What tactics are used? What formation is employed? Students, at this stage, attempt to become more conscious of the triggers that might determine their choice of tactics (such as knowing the control or habits of particular opponents).

Before the scenario commences, though, Paul Barratt provides a twist. This can be something as simple as the other side have a penalty, or even that certain players can only pass with particular feet. It is in this precise moment where the students have to apply strategies under pressure with particular constraints that the timing of certain skills becomes best learned.

So, applying this principle to the teaching of English, perhaps it is possible to create ‘essay scenarios’ where students have a finite amount of time to complete a paragraph or similar. They discuss how to do this peers, presumably with guides for content and style focus for those without firm frameworks. However, just before the timing starts, the students are given a twist of a common exam issue: you have forgotten a key term (metaphor!), or you cannot analyse indiviudal words but must only analyse phrases instead. Perhaps it is in this moment where (collaboratively or otherwise) students might truly begin to develop to sense of when to use particular metacognitive strategies.

More on this later.